Lay of the Land


CJ and I arrived in Salida Wednesday evening very tired but excited about what lay ahead.  With the change in elevation (Salida sits at 7,000 ft), I had a difficult time catching my breath so I spent that first evening just adjusting to the altitude. But no worries, I’m breathing like a local now!

The hotel we’re staying in is run by a very hospitable eastern european couple. It’s very clean and well mantained and the only hotel in town that allows pets. They have a sweet little pooch and two birds that greet us in the lobby.  The more we explore Salida the more we sense that a majority of the businesses are locally owned and operated. In every restaurant we’ve entered, the staff seem to know a good number of the patrons personally.  It has a very hometown feel….one of the many reasons we fell in love with Sailda in the first place. 

So the main purpose of this trip was to get a feel for the surrounding area. Before we came, we did some research on potential properties and planned to check those out first thing.  Our exploration yesterday started in the area west of Salida, which we think is a prime area  — 10 minutes from the Monarch Ski Resort and 20 minutes from downtown Salida. The first parcel was a beautifully treed 18 acre property with tall aspens, cottonwoods and pines. The property also borders the South Fork of the Arkansas River on one side and the San Isabel National Forest on the other.  It sits just off US 50, but still felt very secluded. We weren’t able to walk the property due to several feet of snow, but from the road it got high marks and we were really excited about the potential.

The second property we checked out was about double the acreage and half the price. It’s west of Salida as well, but east of Route 285 and much closer to town. Route 285 travels north / south in the valley dividing two mountain ranges.  This second property sits on the eastern mountain range whereas the first property is on the western mountain range (very different vegetation and feel).

The drive to the second property was up a very long / curvy road and the countryside was covered with pinon pines. These pines don’t get very tall…honestly, they look alot like the cedar trees in Texas. Not the most attractive. However, the property was located at the end of the road and  backed up to public forest land, which would insure that it wouldn’t be developed. Not to mention, it already had electricity run to the property and the most awesome veiw of the Arkansas River valley.

From there we decided to explore the area northwest of Salida. What we discovered was that the terrain and vegetation was very similar to the second property, short pines and more open land (great for ranching…but maybe not so great for a wilderness retreat). It appears that the taller trees only grow in the river valleys or above an elevation of around 8,000 feet.

After a morning dedicated to driving around and searching for properties, we were famished!  We headed back into town and found a neat little restaurant called the Boathouse Grill located in a really cool building built in 1903. The food was good but the atmosphere was better….it was situated right on the river and had beautiful views. Just another way God has been showing us His love.

After lunch, we walked along the river, talked about our morning, and plotted next steps.  We decided to check out a few more county roads that we had seen on the map in the vicinity of the first property. One of the roads in particular peaked our interest because it appeared on the map to head deep into a mountain valley. So we packed up our gear and headed west again. However, shortly after we turned onto the road the County winter maintaince stopped, which meant that the plowing stopped.  There was about a foot and a half of snow and very little area to turn around, yikes!  Despite this hiccup, we both thought the road was heading into an area that would be great for the reatreat and worthy of further investigation in the future. The only downside would be the need for us to plow the road ourselves (if we do indeed head in this direction), which would likely be a be a major expense.

During our morning drive we noticed a few other parcels for sale along the same road as the beautiful 18 acres.  So after our snowy dead end, we decided to head back to the hotel to do some online research of those properties. We weren’t very successful in finding information on those particular lots, but we did find more info on the first property.  Unfortunately, 12 of the 18 acres are designated as “open space” and 3 utility easements cross the remaining 6 acres of developable land making this property much less attractive. 

In saying this, I ended yesterday a little discouraged.  At this point I’m not sure if my expectation of what the retreat should look like is the same as what God has planned.  Both CJ and I feel so drawn to the areas with larger trees further up in the mountains but we’ve had little success in finding property.  However, our goal for this trip was to merely get the lay of the land.  In God’s timeline, there’s still plenty of time to find the perfect property…I think my discouragement may be rooted in my excitement pushing me ahead while God is saying, “One step at a time, my son”.  CJ, on the other hand, left yesterday feeling a sense of re-direction in terms of our vision.  Our original thought was that we would need much larger acreage (35 to 40 acres) in order to handle the capacity we had set.  However, after seeing the properties, we’re talking about downsizing and building something much smaller and more intimate….say maximum of 30 people. Hmmmm, what do you think?

So my hope for today is that I find excitement in another day walking in God’s will…a fruitful day, another step towards God’s bigger vision.  We ask that you pray for us, that our expectations are removed and that God’s will is made clear.

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